The Son

The Son Image

Universal acclaim - based on 18 Critics What's this?

User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 18 Ratings

Your Score
0 out of 10
Rate this:
  • 10
  • 9
  • 8
  • 7
  • 6
  • 5
  • 4
  • 3
  • 2
  • 1
  • 0
  • 0
  • Starring: , ,
  • Summary: A divorced carpentry instructor at a vocational training center finds his life turned upside down by the arrival of a mysterious student. [New Yorker Films]

Where To Watch

Buy On
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 17 out of 18
  2. Negative: 0 out of 18
  1. The Dardennes's masterful casting and austere style amplify this simple but powerful parable.
  2. It combines a fresh and exciting style with stunning performances and that rarity in current film, a deeply humanistic story.
  3. 100
    It is as assured and flawless a telling of sadness and joy as I have ever seen.
  4. 90
    For all its quasi-documentary materialism, The Son is ultimately a Christian allegory of one man's inchoate desire to return good for evil. The movie requires a measure of faith, and like a job well done, it repays that trust.
  5. It's a movie imbued with a fierce intimacy -- a tone and style similar to cinema verite documentary -- but it's not a banal realism, even if the characters and settings in contemporary working-class Liege initially seem mundane.
  6. 75
    The real star of The Son isn't lead actor Olivier Gourmet. It's the back of his neck, which the camera obsessively focuses on throughout this difficult but rewarding Belgian drama.
  7. Sitting through the film is punishing work. The jittery closeups create a response that is more physical (I'm thinking nausea) than emotional, and there are no respites.

See all 18 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 8 out of 11
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 11
  3. Negative: 3 out of 11
  1. ChadS.
    Jan 31, 2006
    Suddenly, every banal action by this sullen carpenter is significant. Our focus moves away from an overwhelming awareness that this film is Suddenly, every banal action by this sullen carpenter is significant. Our focus moves away from an overwhelming awareness that this film is being shot with a handheld camera, and onto the blank slate of a face we suspect is a signpost for an imploding soul. Before our very eyes, "The Son" transforms from a stunt into truth, artifice into edifying art. Emilie Dequenne is easier on the eyes than Olivier Gourmet, but "The Son" probably surpasses the Palm d'or-winning "Rosetta" from Cannes '99, simply because we're in disbelief that these talented filmmakers made another great film with this avant-garde approach that stops precariously short of being arch. Ultimately, "The Son" is a suspense film. Without any music cues to prepare us, we're kept on edge everytime the mentor is out of frame in context with his younger companion. Expand
  2. Aug 1, 2013
    The Dardenne brothers shy away from melodramatic flourishes: there's no music in the film, the performances are understated yet profound, andThe Dardenne brothers shy away from melodramatic flourishes: there's no music in the film, the performances are understated yet profound, and it's the gestures of the characters that are psychologically revealing--as opposed to the dialogue. "The Son" is a shrewd, highly controlled little film from Belgium that slowly builds to an unexpected emotional climax. Though distant and almost documentary-like in style, and it never stops taking us deeper into their personal lives. In other hands, "The Son" could easily have been just another straightforward revenge thriller.

    Olivier (Olivier Gourmet) is a carpenter who teaches carpentry to troubled teens in the juvenile criminal system learning a vocation. Olivier's routine is interrupted by the enrollment of a new student, Francis (Morgan Marinne), who becomes the object of the carpenter's inexplicable obsession. Initially, Olivier does not tell his wife Magali (Isabella Soupart) about the situation, but after careful consideration, Olivier reveals the secret to her--Francis is the teenager who murdered their child years before hand. After serving his sentence in the juvenile prison, Francis seeks to start anew, and eventually even asks the flummoxed Olivier to become his guardian. Olivier withholds his knowledge from Francis, even as a tentative relationship between the two develops. The tense scenario leads to a climactic confrontation, as the past finally catches up with teacher and student.

    Belgian filmmakers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne visual style is claustrophobically disorientating. The camera stays tight on Olivier Gourmet--he is in almost every shot, a handheld camera films him from his shoulders up, subjecting him to a scrutiny we rarely encounter onscreen. The scrutiny pays off, for soon we're able to read into the face of this unsmiling man and an underlying sorrow. This also adds to the sense of suspense and unknowing, while the jerky camera cuts suggest his internal agitation. The film is stripped-bare, and only the essential elements remain.

    The true challenge posed by the film is not piecing together the story, nor teasing out its meaning, but embracing its implications in our own lives. Not that "The Son" is a "message" film it isn't but it is one of the most profoundly moral and human films I have seen in years. On first viewing, the films rigorous method makes for a comparatively demanding viewing. The Dardennes aren't interested in entertaining the viewer-- but in something far more valuable. The difficulty of the first viewing can become challenging, though, ultimately becomes irrelevant in light of its extraordinary rewards.
  3. Oct 28, 2013
    With a stalking handheld camera relentlessly recording the kitchen-sink execution of a hyperbolical subject matter retribution andWith a stalking handheld camera relentlessly recording the kitchen-sink execution of a hyperbolical subject matter retribution and redemption, Dardenne brothers downplay the excessive theatricality and map out a distinctively mundane presentation of the most authentic and accurate learning curve about tackling unbearable ire and haunting guilt, from which derives a sensitively tangible proxy-father-and-son bond.

    Olivier (Gourmet), an instructor in a teenager rehab center voluntarily takes on Francis (Marinne), the murderer of his infant son 5 years ago, as his apprentice, who is 16 now and unbeknownst of his instructor’s real identity, so is the audience until halfway through when Olivier converses with his newly-pregnant ex-wife (Soupart), and from then on, what is left for viewers is to wait quietly and see how the bubble bursts, an inevitable confrontation will show the true color of both. But cleverly, Dardenne brothers never bother to stoke the climax with usual filmic antics, all the tension has been heaped up simultaneously with the everyday proceeding, and very much inked with ingenious details (such as Olivier refuses to pay for Francis’ lunch money when they grab a bite in a cafeteria), also, without the intruding music scores, THE SON is a cinematic fruit of its own kind, austere, voyeuristic and persistent, yet can easily generate the power of catharsis and has no worries about overkill. The ending has a great aftertaste if a first-timer may feel abrupt to a certain extent, there is a tacit understanding for both characters after the grapple, it is subtle and sensible, we don’t know if they can reconcile since the scenario would not seemingly exist in a real world, but thanks to the creators’ mind’s eyes, it is no doubt a heartfelt film lays bare the universal sense of empathy in such a dire situation.

    Gourmet and Marinne form an interesting pair with an invisible barrier between them, there is no showy parts but still a demanding job for both actors, an epitome in Dardenne brothers’ oeuvres, Gourmet immerse himself fully into the character-building, mostly by body languages, but 2002 is a strong year for my film-viewing, so he nearly cracks into my Top 10 list, but Dardenne brothers again strut into the top tier and my personal appreciation for them is continuing ascending (after THE CHILD 2005, 7/10; LORNA’S SILENCE 2008, 8/10 and THE KID WITH A BIKE 2011, 8/10)!
  4. KaterinaD.
    Apr 3, 2003
    It could have been a very good film, but it isn't as it is very empty - no emotions, neither some story to keep your mind busy.
  5. DavidT
    Dec 28, 2005
    Wow, What a bore. NOTHING Happens! cure for insomnia.

See all 11 User Reviews

Related Articles

  1. 20 Terrible Movie Sequels, Ranked from Bad to Badder

    20 Terrible Movie Sequels, Ranked from Bad to Badder  Image
    Published: June 16, 2016
    We pick out 20 great examples of lousy movie sequels.
  2. Best of 2015: Film Critic Top Ten Lists

    Best of 2015: Film Critic Top Ten Lists Image
    Published: December 6, 2015
    Over the next month, we'll be collecting year-end top 10 lists from over 100 movie critics and publications. Browse the individual lists and view our composite rankings inside.
  3. Best of 2015: Film Awards & Nominations Scorecard

    Best of 2015: Film Awards & Nominations Scorecard Image
    Published: December 1, 2015
    Find a complete list of 2015's major film awards and nominations from dozens of professional organizations and critic associations, as well as a running scorecard of the year's biggest winners. Check daily for updates throughout December and January.
  4. 15 Films to See in December

    15 Films to See in December Image
    Published: November 26, 2015
    Our editors select 15 films to see in theaters this December.

Awards & Rankings